Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Indian site may block bike path

Published: Tuesday, March 25, 2008
By Sara Buscher
Free Press Staff Writer

SOUTH BURLINGTON -- For cyclists traveling to Williston from the Butler Farms and Oak Creek Village neighborhoods on Hinesburg Road, a path eliminating the trip down Kennedy Drive to get to Kimball Avenue would be ideal.

Trouble is, prehistoric American Indians felt the same way.

In its plans to add a quarter-mile section to the city's 20-mile bike path through the commercial development on Tilley Drive, the Recreation Path Committee has uncovered an interesting problem: The recently proposed path had been used before. In a letter to the site's developer in 2004, the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation noted the 75-acre Tilley II subdivision contains an extensive prehistoric American Indian site, with artifacts that could date to 9000 B.C.

The property, bounded to the south by Interstate 89 and to the east by Technology Park, contains the main stem and a tributary of Potash Brook and its associated wetlands, and was first identified as containing archaeologically sensitive areas in August 2003, during the Act 250 permitting process for the development.

In September 2003, the University of Vermont Consulting Archaeology Program conducted a Phase I site identification survey of two significant zones along the Potash Brook, neither of which were proposed for development at the time.

Surface collection of a plowed portion of the land identified three areas with concentrations of cultural artifacts, including an Early Archaic projectile point, stone tools, and fire-cracked rock; subsurface collection identified a probable fire hearth. Spear points and arrowheads point to several occupations of the land between 7000 B.C. and A.D. 1600 -- a significant portion of Vermont's historical sequence, according to the letter.

Characteristics of the people of the Early Archaic Period (7000-5500 B.C.) include the use of chipped-stone tools and a hunter-gatherer lifestyle that predated sedentary farming practices.

The study concluded that one of the three areas, located on the northeastern portion of the site, contains important information about the period and meets criteria for inclusion on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The confirmed site and another potential site were mapped with 30-foot buffer zones to protect against topsoil removal, grading and other ground disturbances associated with development.

The study recommended that should maintenance of the buffer zone become impossible, further archaeological study be carried out before construction so mitigation measures -- including additional site evaluation, data recovery or redesign of proposed project components -- can be completed before development. No other portions of the parcel were found to contain significant artifacts.

"Archaeological sites like this one are more prevalent around the Champlain basin than in other areas of the state," said David Mace, director of communications for the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. A development project that would potentially affect the site would require amending the Act 250 permit originally granted for commercial development on the property, Mace said.

The proposed Tilley Drive-Community Drive bike path connection would pass through the site to meet a section under way from Kimball Avenue to Williston, providing a direct link for travelers from neighborhoods on Hinesburg Road to the town.

"We had budgeted money for archaeological surveys, but certainly not anything like this," said Lou Bresee, chairman of South Burlington's Recreation Path Committee. "This is clearly the long pole in the tent."

The committee obtained a $200,000 federal transportation enhancement grant, with a 20 percent match by the city, to construct the quarter-mile stretch of path; the amount is less than the $300,000 the committee had requested.

Bresee will meet with survey archaeologist Scott Dillon of the state Division for Historic Preservation, and a representative from the Vermont Agency of Transportation on Wednesday to discuss re-routing the path.

"We want to come to an equitable solution that protects the environment and the history, and also allows for a bike path to go through there," Bresee said.

Contact Sara Buscher at 651-4811 or

Bicycle Recycle Vermont on Mountain Lake Journal

Mountain Lake Journal
Mountain Lake Public Television
March 26, 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Trail's Fate Divides Westford Residents

Published: Wednesday, March 19, 2008
By Matt Ryan
Free Press Staff Writer

WESTFORD -- A half-mile stretch of dirt in Westford has long been the crux of a debate between conservation and landowners' rights within the town. The Selectboard may soon decide the trail's fate, and some residents say they fear the decision could set a precedent that would endanger all the town's trails.

The dispute has narrowed to 450 feet of the Covey Trail, which a landowner wants to convert into a driveway to connect his property to Stoney Ridge. The trail, a town right of way, connects Stoney Ridge and Covey Road through undeveloped land of trees and rock.

Larry Packard of Milton bought the 30 acres adjacent to the trail in 2000, and plans to sell the property to a developer after installing the driveway. The prospective developer, Richard Bouffard, says he plans to build a private residence on the property.

Two years ago, the Selectboard agreed to terms to have the driveway installed. The current Selectboard, however, decided to revisit the issue.

"There are a lot of people who are very interested in it," Selectboard Chairman Dave Tilton said. "They fall into two camps -- people interested in recreational trails, and they want to see the town protect those trails; and then the other group is concerned about the private property rights of the landowner that wants to develop that property."

The core group of residents working to prevent Packard from building a driveway live at either end of the trail. Lynn Zinger, who sits on the town's Planning Commission, owns a home on land adjacent to that of Packard at the end of Stoney Ridge and the trail's southern entrance.

"They shouldn't give up something that's worth this much to the town for one individual," Zinger said.

Residents use the path for recreational activities such as biking, hiking and snowshoeing, said Joan Farmer, who lives at the opposite end of the trail from Zinger.

"In a nutshell, it's crucial to what this town is all about," Farmer said.

The driveway project, according to the agreement reached between Packard and the Selectboard two years ago, would include a new section of trail to wrap around the driveway and connect the rest of Covey Trail with Stoney Ridge. At a Selectboard meeting last month, Westford Road Foreman Gary Estus estimated the proposed plan would cost $22,563.

Estus also estimated Zinger's well, which she says could be destroyed by blasting on Packard's property, costs $16,000.

Zinger and Farmer say they are not "elitists" or "not in my backyard" people. Cars or trucks driving on the path would threaten people using it for recreational use, they said.

They said they fear Bouffard would subdivide the lot, which would invite more traffic. Also, it could invite other developers to try to build off the town's other trails.

The Selectboard will meet in executive session Thursday with the town attorney to discuss whether to grant Packard permission to upgrade the trail to driveway standards.

"Once that access is granted, they can't take it back," Zinger said. "He would have to go to the Planning Commission, but he would easily be able to subdivide. Our concern is that once access is granted, that's the precedence."

Packard said he just wants to sell a piece of land for which he has no use.

"When I bought the land, I wanted to build up there," Packard said. "And we ended up with some decent land in Milton, and we ended up building there."

Packard's land, being adjacent to the trail -- a town right of way, is not considered landlocked. However, to develop the property, the owner would need to connect to the nearby road, Zinger said.

"You're supposed to have road frontage," Zinger said. "Our local road ordinance says in order to develop property, you need to have 450 feet of road frontage, and you can't use a trail. But that's all interpretable, because it used to be a road."

Covey Trail was used for logging and considered a road until 1975, when it was renamed a trail, Zinger said.

Packard's land is valued at $1,664 per acre. Comparatively, a 13-acre landlocked property on Brookside Road is valued at $569 per acre; a 15-acre property on Osgood Hill Road with road frontage is valued at $3,203 an acre; and a 42-acre property with a right of way is valued at $1,917 per acre, Town Clerk Nanette Rogers said.

"I have a piece of land, and I can't use it," Packard said. "It's not going to serve any purpose if it just sits there."

Zinger offered to buy the land -- valued at $50,100 -- for $15,000.

"They have offered me some money for it, but it's a joke," Packard said. "If they had made me a reasonable offer, I would have sold it."

Contact Matt Ryan at 651-4849 or

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

County Works To Update Bicycle Plan

Published: Tuesday, March 18, 2008
By Sara Buscher
Free Press Staff Writer
Burlington Free Press

SOUTH BURLINGTON -- For those looking to reduce their carbon footprint, here's a step in the right direction.

The Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization is updating its Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, with an eye toward implementing an interconnected regional bicycle and pedestrian transportation network.

The agency has hired Wilbur Smith Associates to update the plan to link Chittenden County communities and connect with buses and other modes of transportation via sidewalks, bike lanes and shared-use paths. The two groups invited public comment on the effort at South Burlington City Hall on Thursday night.

From the cold, snowy streets, a few residents arrived straight from work, bike helmets in hand.

"A lot of people still think of biking and walking as recreational activity -- not as a transportation mode," said Jim Donovan of Wilbur Smith Associates, who commutes to and from work on his bicycle.

The updated plan will include adding bike and pedestrian facilities built since 2003 to existing maps, based on information gathered from a survey of Chittenden County towns.

"There's actually been quite a lot going on, especially within the more urban core of the community," said Sandra O'Flaherty, also of Wilbur Smith Associates, of the survey results.

The data representing the types of paths built and their frequency of use vary widely among towns, making assessment of networks a challenge, O'Flaherty said.

Estimates suggest 34 miles of on-road facilities and 27 miles of shared-use paths have been added throughout the county in the past five years -- including Riverside Avenue and the Vermont 127 bike path in Burlington, the Champlain Mill River Walkway in Winooski, and bike lanes on Interstate 89 at Exit 14 in Williston.

Another 36 miles of on-road and 46 miles of shared-use paths are proposed to be built in towns around the county.

The plan also will outline education programs that encourage walking and biking as forms of transportation and as recreational activities, and make suggestions for future promotions, such as a "Bike to Work" month versus a single day, and a "Sunday Parkways" program, during which sections of streets would be closed to motor vehicles for exclusive use by pedestrians and bicyclists.

Compared with other communities across the country, O'Flaherty said Chittenden County is "pretty progressive" in its efforts to encourage and facilitate use of alternative modes of transportation.

Cathy Frank of South Burlington said she rides her bike extensively for exercise and to run errands -- but not in the winter. "It's cold," Frank said.

Frank is on the board of Local Motion, a nonprofit group that promotes walking and cycling. She said she'd like to see more emphasis placed on connecting existing trails to South Hero, and along Vermont 15, in the updated plan.

"It's like not having a bridge across the river," she said. Frank also senses a need for better education of drivers and cyclists sharing the road.

"I think most drivers got their licenses long before there were a lot of bikes on the road. Bikers have to be responsible, too."

Several cyclists commented on a need for better signs along road shoulders in transitional areas where bike lanes begin or end, and improved maintenance of roads and trails, particularly at this time of year, with snowbanks and prevalent potholes.

Following the presentation, Peter Keating, CCMPO senior transportation planner, invited those present to comment on existing bike and pedestrian networks by marking maps of shared-use paths and on-road facilities that hung on the wall. Comments from the public will be accepted over the next two weeks.

After reviewing those comments, Wilbur Smith Associates will update the recommended network of facilities and associated construction and maintenance costs, refine implementation strategies, and prepare a draft plan for a second public meeting in June. Donovan said he expects the plan to be completed by early summer.

Contact Sara Buscher at 651-4811 or

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Shelburne Voters Pass Budgets

Shelburne voters approved town and school budgets Tuesday by wide margins during daylong voting at Shelburne's Town Center...68 percent of the town's 4,716 registered voters, turned out to cast ballots...Voters approved 1,823 -1,345 a proposal to build a $1.1 million bicycle / pedestrian path.